Members of our community gathered for events over the Memorial Day weekend. I did not know most of the people I encountered, yet felt a part of it. I did recognize most of the veterans in the American Legion color guard at Monday’s service.
We don’t neighbor the way we used to when I was coming up at the American Foursquare in Davenport. I remember getting to know everyone on our block, at least a little, when I was a grader. I had been inside most of the houses and apartments. It was hard to keep up with the several rentals, yet if someone owned their home, I knew who they were and a bit about their history. Geography was an important part of neighboring. It is less so today.
We gather in different ways in the 21st century. Our county Democratic party is trying to resuscitate the idea of “neighborhoods” in an effort to prepare for the 2024 and 2026 elections. Such geographical neighborhoods they describe don’t exist any more, especially in rural Iowa. In a place where automobile culture takes us to remote jobs and commercial enterprises, we are less rooted in the physical community. With increasing specialization of interests, there are fewer people who share them in our immediate locale. While rural folks may reflect the same humanity as anyone, the distance from population centers and their work, shopping, health care, and intellectual assets creates a divide unlikely to be breached.
By nature of our humanity we live in a place. How we socialize is unchained from restrictions of geography. That makes assumptions about how one canvasses and gets out the vote in a geography obsolete. That is, we need to invent a new way of locating and turning out voters. Thus far, if the string of Iowa Democratic losses is any indication, we’ve not proven to be much good at it.
Why do we gather in person? On Memorial Day, the reasons are clear, and each person has a role in a public ceremony. The difficulty I increasingly experience is separating from people by political party. The old methods of winning elections haven’t worked for a couple of cycles, and I’d rather spend time with people I know who don’t have the interest of Democrats. Age, status in life, volunteerism and others mean more than politics. The assumption that we associate only with people we resemble has not well served us. We need to let go of old ways and assemble under new, to be defined practices.
I don’t opine much about “society,” yet society will be better if we change our associations with others.
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